What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?

Although a lot of people new to the approach think that it’s named after an educator, Reggio Emilia is actually the name of a town in Northern Italy with less than 200,000 inhabitants. The town gained worldwide prominence in 1991 when it was recognised for its innovative and ground-breaking approach to preschool and kindergarten education. 

The approach was developed after World War II by a local teacher named Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around the Reggio Emilia region.

Word spread about this novel approach to early childhood development, and the subsequent success children had in later education after attending a Reggio Emilia preschool or kindergarten. In 1991, a panel of educational experts commissioned by Newsweek Magazine in the US selected the preschools of Reggio Emilia as some of the “top ten schools in the world”. 

Today, the Reggio Emilia approach has been adopted as an early years educational standard worldwide. In 1997, the Harvard Graduate School of Education began a collaborative project with the Municipal Preschools and Infant Toddler Centres of Reggio Emilia. 

Basis of the Reggio Emilia Approach

The approach is as much a philosophy as a teaching method. At its core, it redefines the role of the child in their education and capitalises on their innate, natural abilities. The Italian educators took note of the child’s natural curiosity and need to communicate. They also noticed how the children were extremely adept at using art to help them communicate their desires and needs. They referred to painting, role-playing, sculpture and all the other art forms that children happily engaged in as ‘symbolic languages’, and began to incorporate these languages into the curriculum they were teaching. 

At the same time, the educators of Reggio Emilia began to see the child as a partner and collaborator in their own education. They realised that children responded better when they had some control over their education and could explore their own interests. 

They began to view early years development and education more holistically and redefined the role of the teacher and parents as well. The teacher became a partner, guide, researcher and nurturer, and the parents were given the role of a partner that supported the teacher. 

Daily Classroom Life

Under the Reggio Emilia approach, lessons and activities are created from conversations and interactions with children that reflect their interests and natural curiosities. The kindergarten school day is broken up into projects. These projects are treated as an adventure that satisfies the inquisitive nature of children. For example, they might explore the concept of clouds because some of the children have asked what clouds are made of. 

The projects have no time limit. They can last for an hour or an entire school term, but they are always presented as a fun activity and a chance to learn something new. They are also an opportunity for the teacher to exercise other areas of a child’s development. For example, a project may involve the use of materials that challenge a child’s motor skills, or problem-solving skills. They may require physical activity like climbing or playing with a ball to illustrate the principles of gravity, for instance. 

Collaboration is a large part of this project-based curriculum. By working together, the children increase their communication skills, cognitive skills, and their social skills. Collaboration also helps them understand the concept of empathy and respecting differences of opinion. 

Artistic Tools of the Reggio Emilia Approach

The creative nature of the child is used to guide their education. Representational development is the integration of the arts into education to be used as an explanatory and exploratory tool to help illustrate concepts, experiences and feelings. The best kindergarten schools devote time to ensure there are plenty of different arts available for children to explore. 

Drama, painting, constructing block structures, puppetry, music – virtually every artistic tool is used to increase a child’s understanding of the world around them. Importance is placed on art as a large part of a child’s development because they view artistic expression as a form of play, which is comforting to them. 

Teachers will observe a child enjoying and excelling at a particular art form, and research ways into incorporating it into that child’s education, making their play a pleasurable learning experience. These observations help enrich a child’s first experiences in the classroom and serve to instil a lasting impression that education is something to be enjoyed.

Importance of Listening and Observing

Kindergarten schools that follow the Reggia Emilia approach to early years development and education are staffed by teachers who are just as comfortable listening, observing, and recording their students’ feelings, wants and desires as they are teaching, guiding and nurturing them. 

The children are the ones ultimately determining the course of study so the teacher pays close attention to the conversations in the classroom in order to get an idea of the directions to explore and the lessons to introduce. 

Recording and documenting each child’s progress is important as these documents are the measure of the child’s progress. They also help identify areas that the child may be struggling to understand and serve as evidence of the need for extra attention.

Every Child Benefits from the Reggio Emilia Approach

Although many kindergartens in Bangkok have adopted the Reggio Emilia approach, arguably one of the best is Raintree International School. We only hire qualified educators who are experienced and committed to achieving the excellence that this world-renown educational approach offers. 

Our Bangkok kindergarten administrators and educators at Raintree International School will be more than happy to introduce you to the Reggio Emilia approach and answer any questions you may have. Please call or email us to find out more or schedule a visit.